The Orange County Board of Elections denied Cam Hill’s request for a recount so the Chapel Hill municipal election is officially certified. I really think this was a very interesting election not for what happened but rather for what didn’t happen, and that is having a “real” campaign with candidates debating the various issues that voters might use in making their voting decisions.
Yes, we had plenty of forums and many things were said, but try this as a test: ask a friend what the top five issues were that separated the candidates. I suspect you will get pretty much the same reaction that I have gotten every time that I have asked that question: a blank stare!
Here’s my take on what we had in Chapel Hill. Instead of something that I will call “simple incumbency,” where a candidate runs on his or her record against a field of challengers and the other incumbents for the four seats, we had “SUPER INCUMBENCY.” Super incumbency is when all five of the current holders of the seats are seeking reelection AND they decide to “run together” against all challengers.
It’s a good thing that those who have served want to continue to serve, and I absolutely have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is when the five individuals who occupy the five seats appear to have agreed to a mutually beneficial campaign strategy, one that appears to diminish our ability to have a real debate or even a discussion of the issues. Diversity of opinion is a good thing, and we ought to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.
The fact that Matt Czajkowski did come in fourth says a lot about his ability to get his message out to voters while the five “SUPER INCUMBENTS” seemed to want only to talk about their past service and how they worked so well together in atypical harmony. In affirmation of their strategy, Mayor Kevin Foy sent out pre-election “robocalls” to voters asking them to reelect him (no problem with that, and I voted for him!) AND the other four incumbents.
Someone asked me why this troubled me and I told them it was because I would have preferred that the mayor have remained above the fray. He has to lead the council that the voters put in office. When a non-incumbent wins (as just happened), what’s the message to the victor? The “outsider” knows for sure that the mayor didn’t want him to win, but those few who bothered to vote obviously did. Yes, 2,932 gave the winner their vote and in the context of an election where only 15% of us bothered to vote, 13.74% of the Council vote is important.
Look at the results as certified by the BoE:
Matt Czajkowski (4th)/2,932/13.74%
Sally Greene (I, 2nd)/3,917/18.36%
Cam Hill (I, 5)/2,872/13.46%
Will Raymond (7th)/1,409/6.60%
Penny Rich (6th)/2,442/11.44%
Bill Strom (I, 3d)/3,735/17.50%
Jim Ward (I, 1st)/3,929/18.41%
Does it mean anything that a candidate can win the fourth seat with under 3,000 votes?
In the mayor’s race, the results were:
Kevin C. Foy /4,333/70.17%
What’s interesting is that if we assume that everyone who voted for a council member also voted for mayor, but all who voted for mayor didn’t use all four of their council votes, it might explain some things. According to the BoE’s data, 6,175 voters cast mayoral votes. If all had voted for four council candidates, the number is 24,700. The total council votes were 21,338. The 3,362 “missing votes” suggests that more than a few voters chose to vote for only one, two, or three council candidates. Of course, the assumption is key, as there are probably people who did vote for the Council and not the mayor, but I think the pattern is obvious.
I wish all of the victors well as they work hard serving us during their term of office. I’m also sure that Mayor Foy and the other incumbents will be welcoming and treat Matt Czajkowski as he should be treated, but I wish I didn’t have to wonder about how he would be treated in the first place. I also wish the “SUPER INCUMBENTS” along with the four challengers had shown where and how they differed on policy. In addition, and most importantly, I wish they had spent more time talking about our future and the issues that face us.
What do you think? I’d really like your feedback on this.